The end of blogging? Thinking about our online mental graffiti space…

Here are three things that come to mind about why blogging is important and why blogging won’t disappear any time soon.

  1. Blogging is a reflection of the mental chatter that exists in our brain. I have noticed that a number of education related blogs have an address that is often just the person’s username. I’m no different. The address of this blog is timscott674.wordpress.com. People are using their blog as a reflection of their thinking on a variety of different issues, to ensure the personal imprimatur, their username or nic is the basis of their address. They are establishing themselves as a brand.
  2. Blogging can affect the physical world. Its influence is not just in the virtual world. An example of this is Ian Schafer, the CEO of internet marketing firm Deep Focus. His image is shaped by actively updating his blog, his Twitter account and social media profiles. On a broader scale, politics and commerce have been affected by the blogosphere. An example of the political impact of blogging can be found in the Egyptian activist group founded by Ahmer Maher called the April 6 Youth Movement. Through the use of blogs, Twitter, Flickr and even Facebook, this movement (along with others) used cyberspace as a forum to fight corrupt and oppressive governments. In the commercial realm, United Airlines suffered a 75% drop in its share price after Bloomberg’s blog featured a 6 year old story relaying that United had filed for bankruptcy, and Apple experienced a similar bump when the CNN blog featured an unverified account of Steve Jobs’ ill-health.
  3. Blogging represents a Web 3.0 way of thinking. This is because blogging is a natural outworking of the interdependent, hyperlinked and integrated global brain that is the internet. Blogging on its own is a Web 2.0 activity. We use blogs as mental graffiti space much of the time. In the process the blogger brings his or her practical experiences and insights to the digital environment. It is a reflection of what one contemporary thinker has called fusing the analogue with the digital.

Anders Sorman-Nilsson described the situation in Thinque Funky  as: “Blogs are here to stay and they’re affecting our thinking”. I like this assessment. Their continued influence on our thinking means that for now blogging will continue to be an activity in which people will engage over and above the status updates of Facebook or the tweets of Twitter.

Blogging voice: contrived or real?

I am not new to this blogging thing and one of the things I have noticed about blogging is that one’s blogging voice is different from that which one speaks with when drafting a chapter in a thesis, writing a marker’s report or composing a paper for a conference. Of other educationally-related blogs I have looked at (or indeed have followed), I have noticed that the blogger’s writing seems to flow more freely than compared to those texts that are engaged in more professional or specifically academic space.

Does this mean that the blogger’s voice is not as learned? Does this mean that the blogger’s voice is articulating words that are not as well considered? I don’t think so. Perhaps it is the anticipation that someone might be reading the blog. Perhaps it is the desire to make sure that what is posted is something that is of interest to the casual reader in the hope that he or she might return again to the blog. Perhaps it is the anonymity, albeit in a limited sense, that a blog provides that gives a sense of freedom. I am not sure. What I do know is that I have often wondered why one’s levels of creative output disappear or change when one shifts from the professional / academic piece to that which exists online.

I suspect it has everything to do with the anticipation and anonymity that comes with being a blogger. Certainly, there is a blogging etiquette in that you must be prepared to stand by your opinions online as if you were justifying them in a face-to-face environment. In other words, what you say online should be no different to what you say away from your blog. I think the ability to churn out a 2000 word post in a short space of time and then not be able to do the same with a thesis chapter – despite the fact that the level of knowledge for the topic being covered in the blog could well  be commensurate with the level of knowledge for the section being covered in the thesis – is that there are more heavily defined conventions when it comes to writing a thesis.

That is not to say that blogging is something that happens without any conventions or rules. There are a couple, particularly in relation to the comments one posts, the treatment of others both in and out of the blogosphere and so on. Conventions for blogging are not nearly as acutely defined as those related to the presentation of research. In one sense, I believe that blogging is an outworking of postmodernism. If we apply the concept of blogging to the construction and depiction of history, then blogging can be considered to be a medium for conveying history in a postmodern mode.

Let me ventilate what I mean by using a comparison with what might be considered to be a typical approach to the writing of empirical history. In a empiricist’s account of the past, one would expect to find footnotes and reference lists. The preoccupation with the sources, and indeed with primary sources, is something that has been characteristic of the empirical approach since the nineteenth century. The art of blogging bypasses this expectation. Certainly, there is the capacity to cite sources in a very direct way; hyperlinking the source so there is a direct connection between the blog post and the cited source. In one sense this is the epitomy of empirical history. Technology has provided the means for a reader to judge for themselves the validity of the source material upon which the historian has based his or her argument. The journal-like nature of a blog allows for free thought. There is no need to cite sources or footnote references because the nature of the blog is to allow for a freeflow of ideas. If relativism is at the heart of postmodern thinking then a blog encourages the reader to arrive at their own determination of  the discussion that has been posted. The reader has the ability to verify, in an online manner, what the blogger is saying. He or she has control over this themselves, in a very real and direct way.

So, is the blogging voice contrived or real? For me, it is quite real. I blog in the same way as I might lay out ideas in a classroom for students. The turns of phrase I use in a blog are conversational but they are not what would appear in a research-related publication. I meet the expectations that are set for successful writing in an academic context. I don’t think a blogging voice is contrived. It is simply a reflection of a different way of thinking and of discussing ideas. It is free of the formality that comes with academic publications, both in terms of the writer being free to express their ideas and the reader being able to verify what has been said, but this freedom from formality does not equate to a lack of academic integrity. No. The style may not conform with a peer-reviewed journal or the writing guidelines for a dissertation that is about to be submitted for examination but it can, if the blogger so wishes, remain a thoughtful and objective exercise in critical thinking.

My hope is that will be the case for this blog, as I continue to add to it.

By way of an introduction

 

At the time, I suspect many people thought it was one of the most ridiculous decisions I have ever made. In fact, I’m pretty sure some people thought it was downright stupid. I had willingly put myself into a situation whereby I was completing my PhD at the same time as changing jobs and moving my family of five to a different country.

Such was my passion for teaching and learning, and in particular for working in international education, that the absurdity of making the decision to move when I was in the final stages of my doctoral studies made me barely raise an eyebrow.

Fast forward two years into the future and here I am, living in Germany, with my family, PhD completed and awarded, fulfilling the role of Director of Student Learning and Head Principal of an international school. My role entails not only overseeing all the academic programs of the school but also the operations of three campuses, and leading the strategic planning process to make the school a better place for learning; to be the school’s ‘lead learner’, as it were.

Formative assessment, deep learning pedagogies, alternative credentials, technology accelerating learning are some of the topics that might be covered in this blog. They are certainly relevant to me and my own context, at this point in time and are definitely topics that have a wider application to teaching and learning in general. I am sure there will be other things covered as well.

So, my intent with the posts to this blog is to reflect on teaching and learning and to contribute in a meaningful way to the discourse about learning, and the discussions about the changes taking place in realm of teaching and learning. International education will be a particular focus but not the only one. So, thank you for stopping by this particular quiet backwater of the blogosphere. I hope you will continue to come back and see where and how this blog ends up.